MERE minutes and metres wereall that stood between a tragic night and a narrow escape for five young Hunter travellersin picture-perfect Nice.
PERFECT: Novocastrians Thomas Davies and Catriona Reid in Nice on Bastille Day. Picture: Supplied.
As tributes flow from around the world for the 84 people killed in the south of France on Bastille Day, those caught up in the attack like Thomas Davies, Catriona Reid, Georgia Bear, Dom Batey and Jackson Paul are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that struck thepopular holiday destination.
After leaving the city, Maitland pair Mr Paul and MrBatey have now described their “sketchy”ordeal and revealed their reliance on family at home to provide information when hiding in a nearby cafe for safety.
Just 15 minutes before the attack, the 21-year-old men had been enjoying drinks on the beach watching fireworks before walking along the very Promenade des Anglais where a truck was to plough into a crowd for about 1.8kmand cause chaos on the country’s national day.
BLUE, WHITE AND RED: Dom Batey (back left) and Jackson Paul (back right) in French celebrations. Picture: Facebook.
Mr Paul and Mr Batey had made their way toa popular nightclub called Wayne’s just 150mfrom where the incident occurred about 10.30pm on Thursday.
The venue then went into lockdown mode and rumours of a gunman instilled panic before the Maitland Blacks rugby union playersfound a fire exit into a back alley.
After sprinting away the duorealised they had split from their tour group and decided to take refuge.
They were taken in by the female owner of a small cafeand stayed with her for two hours as they assessed the unfolding situation and planned what action to take next.
NOW AND THEN: Georgia Bear said Nice was nothing but sunshine and good times before the attack. Picture: Instagram.
“We didn’t know whether to stay or go,” Mr Paul said. “We were told there was a second gunman roaming the streets, but we decided to make a break for our hotel.”
Mr Batey shared those concerns and tried to get updates via his mobile phone.
“It wasso sketchy when we were hiding in that cafe because we didn’t know was happening,” Mr Batey said. “We were relying on family back home to tell us if it was safe to leave or not.”
Despite the unknown potential dangers outside Mr Paul and Mr Batey ran for their accomodation, which was a further 2km away.
Upon arrival at their destination they were met by concerned friends waiting for them in the hotel lobby.
Three days on from the experiencethey are both “still in shock”. They have continued onto Barcelona.
Calm before the storm in shattered NiceBy Brodie Owen
“NOTHING but sunshine and good times here in Nice,” read a caption to aphotograph posted onlineby Merewether’s Georgia Bear a day before 84 people were mowed down and killed.
It’s a jarring sentence now –but it was an accurate description of the peace ahead ofthe seaside town’s national Bastille Day celebrations.
Fast forward 24 hours,and for Novocastrians Tom Davies and Catriona Reid (pictured above),who were there the night of the attack,so much had changed.
The duo were returning to their hostel when they were overcome by fear.
“As we were leaving we heard what we now know were gunshots but we thought were just fire crackers,” Mr Davies said in an email to theNewcastle Herald.“The crowd started moving a little quicker, within minutes there were police cars speeding and sirens were blasting.
TRIBUTES: Flowers being laid at the site of the Nice attack. Picture: Getty Images.
“We quickly made our way to the hostel to hear that a truck crashed into the crowd on the promenade, where we were just minutes before, there was open gunfire and already people dead.
“The next few hours were full of fear, uncertainty and a growing death count.”
Mr Davies said he and his girlfriend had been emotionally affected by the act of terrorism.
“Our hearts are heavy for the huge amount of people who weren’t as lucky as we were,” he said.“[It’s] something you never think will happen to you until it does.”
Merewether’sMeg Bear, the mother of anothertraveller,Georgia Bear, told theHeraldon Sunday she wanted her daughterto come home.Georgia was lucky to fly fromNice to Italythe day before the attack.
“One moment you can be having the best time, everything is fine and then bang, everything changes,” Meg Bear said.